After 12 seasons as an assistant coach, University of Rhode Island Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn has announced that Steve Santonastaso has been made head coach of the women’s volleyball program.
“It’s exciting because you go through life wondering what are the things that are going to fulfill you and the context of volleyball allows me [to] continue being around to work with great student-athletes.”
Santonastaso, who was most previously the team’s associate head coach, took over the coaching position from Bob Schneck, who had previously coached the rams for 36 seasons. The promotion made Santonastaso the only other volleyball head coach in Rhode Island history since 1981 when it was introduced as a varsity sport in the NCAA.
“I feel great about the direction the team is going in and we have tremendous experience returning from last year’s team,” Santonastaso said.
Santonastaso has had ties to URI volleyball since he attended the university. A member of the 1993 graduating class, Santonastaso was a player on the men’s club volleyball team from 1990-1993, and was a key factor, along with classmates, in reviving it. Men’s club volleyball has been played every year since.
During this transitional period, Santonastaso leaned on his experience as an assistant and the support of the Rhode Island athletic department to help him lead the team.
“The people in this athletic department are great to work with and I find myself seeking advice from all other coaches about what it means to run a college athletic program,” Santonastaso said.
As the associate head coach, Santonastaso oversaw game plans, practice plans and the scouting of opposing teams. In addition to these duties, he also handled the bulk of the recruiting process. With March being within prime recruiting time for volleyball, Santonastaso has had to balance his new position alongside his recruiting duties.
“I think you have to delegate some of that responsibility to the staff as head coach,” Santonastaso said. “Now, I have to be more responsible for the atmosphere of the team and influencing the team in a positive way.”
Heading into his first season at the helm, Santonastaso highlighted the leadership of the senior class as a strength for the upcoming year. The depth of the team will come into play as more players will be integrated into the lineup to compete for the Rams.
“I believe there’s some great opportunity for us to keep pushing the program forward.”
The Rams have been consistently near the top of the A-10 standings the last few seasons, and will look to continue a proud tradition of URI volleyball as they usher in the Santonasao era.